Diving into the depths: Tampa Bay Rays

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Tampa Bay Rays
Rotation
1. James Shields
2. Matt Garza
3. Jeff Niemann
4. David Price
5. Wade Davis
6. Andy Sonnanstine
7. Jeremy Hellickson
8. Lance Cormier
9. Carlos Hernandez
10. Heath Phillips
11. Alex Torres
Davis impressed in his 2010 audition, going 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six starts last September, so he should enter camp as the clear favorite for the fifth spot over Sonnanstine.
Bullpen
1. Rafael Soriano
2. J.P. Howell
3. Grant Balfour
4. Dan Wheeler
5. Lance Cormier
6. Randy Choate
7. Andy Sonnanstine
8. Dale Thayer
9. Jeff Bennett
10. Jake McGee
11. Mike Ekstrom
12. Winston Abreu
13. R.J. Swindle
14. Paul Phillips
15. Eduardo Morlan
Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen and Chad Bradford all appear to be riding off into the sunset, but it’s not like any from the group made a real contribution last season anyway. Barring a Sonnanstine trade, the pitching staff would seem to be essentially set. It’s possible that either Choate or Sonnanstine could pitch his way off the team during spring training, but both should be penciled in for the moment.


Catcher
1. Kelly Shoppach
2. Dioner Navarro
3. Jose Lobaton
4. John Jaso
First base
1. Carlos Pena
2. Willy Aybar
3. Dan Johnson
4. Ryan Shealy
5. Chris Richard
Second base
1. Ben Zobrist
2. Willy Aybar
3. Sean Rodriguez
4. Reid Brignac
5. Elliot Johnson
Third base
1. Evan Longoria
2. Willy Aybar
3. Joe Dillon
4. Sean Rodriguez
Shortstop
1. Jason Bartlett
2. Reid Brignac
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Elliot Johnson
There’s been nothing to suggest that the Rays will pursue Felipe Lopez, so it looks like Zobrist will stay at second base. It makes him a bit more of an injury risk, but he’s pretty good defensively there, making him a whole lot more valuable than he’d be as a right fielder.
Left field
1. Carl Crawford
2. Sean Rodriguez
3. Gabe Kapler
4. Fernando Perez
5. Justin Ruggiano
6. Chris Richard
Center field
1. B.J. Upton
2. Fernando Perez
3. Desmond Jennings
4. Gabe Kapler
Right field
1. Matt Joyce
2. Gabe Kapler
3. Ben Zobrist
4. Justin Ruggiano
Designated hitter
1. Pat Burrell
2. Dan Johnson
3. Willy Aybar
The Rays might yet grab someone to compete with Joyce and Burrell for playing time. Jermaine Dye is one name that has come up. A reunion with Rocco Baldelli would also make some sense. Still, I think Joyce will be just fine as a right fielder against right-handers, especially since he’s a plus defender, and if he fails, then sticking Jennings in center and moving Upton to right might be an option by midseason.

Shapiro, Murray defend Dellin Betances after arbitration feud

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Dellin Betances #68 of the New York Yankees and the American League pitches against the National League during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.

Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”

Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”

Royals will experiment with Alex Gordon in all three outfield spots this year

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 7: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals reacts to a fan while on first base during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 7, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.

Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.

According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.

While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.